Lord Sumption

Lord Sumption

Subject: History, Law

College appointment: Honorary Fellow

Jonathan Sumption, Lord Sumption, OBE, PC, FSA, FRHistS came up to Magdalen as a Demy in 1967 and was a Fellow by Examination in History between 1971 and 1975. The fruit of his time as a fellow was a study of medieval pilgrimage, published in 1975. In the same year he was called to the bar of England and Wales, where he practised mainly in commercial and public law, becoming a QC in 1986. In January 2012, he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court directly from the bar, one of only five barristers to have gone directly to the highest court since 1973. He retired from the bench in December 2018. Since then he has written extensively about law and public affairs. He delivered the 2019 BBC Reith Lectures on the theme of ‘Law and the Decline of Politics’, which were subsequently published in book form as Trials of the State.

In parallel with his legal career, Lord Sumption pursued the historical studies he began at Magdalen, publishing several works on the European Middle Ages, including a five-volume history of the Hundred Years War, completed with the publication of the final volume in 2023. He is currently working on a history of the French Wars of Religion during the last four decades of the sixteenth century.

Lord Sumption is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a Fellow of the Institute of Historical Research at London University, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He was a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College in 2019-20. He has a lifelong interest in the training of professional musicians, serving as a governor of the Royal Academy of Music from 2002 to 2024 (Deputy Chairmen, from 2017) and as a director of English National Opera between 2015 and 2023.